Papal Vestments: The Subcinctorium

An old papal vestment that always catches people's curiosity is the subcinctorium. Perhaps it is for reason that it is one of the less visible of the papal vestments that this is so. Or perhaps it is just one more manifestation of the thirst many have for knowledge of their patrimony.

For those who have not heard of it, it is essentially a vestment that looks like a long maniple, worn about the cincture of the pope. The Catholic Encyclopedia speaks of it accordingly:
Very similar to the maniple in form and nature is the subcinctorium, an ornamental vestment reserved to the pope. It is worn on the cincture; on one end is embroidered a small Agnus Dei and on the other a cross. The pope wears it only at a solemn pontifical Mass. The subcinctorium is mentioned under the name of balteus as early as the end of the tenth century in a "Sacramentarium" of this date preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris (f. lat. 12052). It is mentioned under the name proecinctorium about 1030 in what is known as the "Missa Illyrica". Later it was generally called subcinctorium. In the Middle Ages it was worn not only by the pope but also by bishops, and even in a few places by priests. However, it gradually ceased to be a customary vestment of bishops and priests, and in the sixteenth century only the popes and the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Milan wore it. The original object of the subcinctorium was, as St. Thomas explicitly says, to secure the stole to the cincture. But as early as about the close of the thirteenth century, it was merely an ornamental vestment. According to the inventories, even in the eleventh century much thought was given to its ornamentation. Most probably the subcinctorium was first used in France, whence the custom may possibly have spread to Italy about the close of the first millennium.

Here are a two rare images of the subcinctorium:

Photo source: Il Papa e le Sue Vesti
Photo Source: TrĂ©sors inconnus du Vatican

And finally, here is an image of it while in liturgical use.

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